Pakistani doctor ‘sacked’ for sending friend request to patient on Facebook

A doctor at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) Karachi in Pakistan has allegedly been fired for sending a Facebook friend request to one of his patients.

The patient is Oscar-winning Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s sister.

“There are zero boundaries in #pakistan! Last night my sister went to AKU emergency & the doctor who tended to her tried 2 add her on FB,” Sharmeen had tweeted earlier this week.

In the second tweet, she accused the doctor of misusing the information about her sister.

“I don’t quite understand how doctor tending 2 emergency patients thinks it’s ok to take a female patient info & add her on FB!”

In her final tweet, while accusing the doctor of harassing her sister, Sharmeen said the doctor had “messed with the wrong women in the wrong family and I will definitely report him! Harassment has 2 stop!”

A young Pakistani blogger shared a post of a message written to him allegedly by the doctor’s friend, wherein the latter laments the firing of a “kind, hardworking father of four.”

The AKUH administration has neither confirmed nor denied the development.

“The AKUH always maintains the highest standards of confidentiality and will not release any information on either employees or patients,” an AKUH spokesperson was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.

Nighat Dad, lawyer and founder of Digital Rights Foundation, said she considered the doctor’s behavior as harassment. “It’s a breach of confidentiality between a doctor and his patient,” she told The Express Tribune.

However, she added that the hospital’s response was too harsh.

“Firing the doctor isn’t a solution to this problem,” she maintained.

Abdul Hameed Bhutto, the in-charge of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) cyber crime cell Karachi, said sending a Facebook friend request, which could either be accepted or rejected, was not harassment.

This, he added, could not be contested in any court under the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act introduced in 2016.

“Blackmailing or sending obscene material through messages or posts is considered harassment, which in this case has not been done,” Bhutto maintained.

According to Pakistan Supreme Court lawyer Khalil Ahmed Siddiqui, sending an add request on social media does not fall under any definition of harassment. “It’s not an offence,” he added.

However, he pointed out, the act could be against the AKUH’s code of conduct.

The incident has stirred up a social media debate in Pakistan on harassment.

“Reactions range from public figure Ali Moeen Nawazish’s belief that Sharmeen has trivialised the ordeal of real victims of harassment by calling a Facebook friend request “harassment” — to a post from the concerned doctor’s colleague who implies that Sharmeen abused her power as a celebrity to bring about the doctor’s termination,” according to The Dawn newspaper.

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